American Hope Resources - Help & Assistance Programs

How Do Section 8 Waiting List Preferences Work?

Since the Section 8 waiting list for housing vouchers is usually long, you want to do everything in your power to speed up the process. Here’s how waiting list preferences can do just that.

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What Is a Waiting List Preference?

If a Public Housing Agency (PHA) uses waiting list preferences, it means that they give priority placement to housing voucher applicants with specific characteristics.

For instance, one PHA may have homelessness as one of its preferences. If a person is homeless, they may receive a housing voucher quicker than someone who isn’t.

Some waiting lists do not have any preferences, while some may have many. It all depends on the location. How do they determine which preferences are used and when? Usually, by the community in question.

If one community has a large homeless population, it may use that preference to distribute housing vouchers. Meanwhile, if another has no homeless people, they may not use it as a preference.

Waiting lists that have more than one preference may assign point values to each. The applicant with the most points may receive the most priority, which can help them wait less to receive their voucher.

You can find out which preferences your waiting list uses by contacting your PHA. The more preferences you have that apply to your household, the better. This is why finding out which ones are used is crucial.

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How Are Waiting List Preferences Applied?

To have a preference used in your favor, it will need to apply to the head of household, spouse, or co-head. You will need official documentation to prove that you qualify as well.

Examples of Waiting List Preferences

As stated, preferences will vary according to location. Here are some of the most common ones you may see:

  • Homeless – To be considered homeless, some PHAs say you must be living in a shelter. Living with friends or family does not qualify. As with other preferences, contact your PHA to see the specifics.
  • Living in substandard housing – If your home has no plumbing, no kitchen, no heat, is unsafe electrically, or has similar characteristics, it may be seen as unfit for living or substandard.
  • Disabled – If you receive disability benefits, cannot live independently, or could be helped by more suitable housing, this preference may apply to your situation.
  • Displaced by disaster – If a federally declared natural disaster like a flood displaced your household from their home, this preference could move you up the waiting list.
  • Domestic violence victim – Living in a domestic violence shelter or having legal documentation of this issue could qualify.
    Burdened by rent – Paying more than 30 percent of your income (sometimes it’s 50 percent) could classify you as rent-burdened, which is a preference that often carries high priority with vouchers.
  • Displaced by government action – Cuts to housing authority funding, code enforcement, and other government actions that displace families are sometimes given waiting list preference.

The list of waiting list preferences doesn’t end there, but you should now get a clearer picture of what can help you receive your housing voucher sooner than others.

If any of your PHA’s preferences apply to your situation, be sure to use them to your advantage.

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Eric Tomasso